Letter to Members

Greetings Members of Graduate Assistants United!  The theme of the February issue of The Advocate is love (look out for a special edition of the Advocate on Feb. 14).  While an explicit mention of “love” is neither in our by-laws nor our Collective Bargaining Agreement with the University, I feel confident advancing the proposition that the idea of love pervades all of our work on campus.  From resolving disputes between Graduate Assistants and faculty-supervisors, to GAU Coffee Hours and Happy Hours, collective bargaining, educating GA’s about their rights in the workplace, etc., a spirit of love guides our work.  Thank you for being a part of our work.

I’m writing with a quick note to update members on a few developments with GAU:

  • We hit a mile marker with membership this year.  At last count we had 170 members of GAU!  With the total number of Graduate Assistants fluctuating at around 1,500, we’ve got some work to do to make our Bargaining Unit as strong as possible.  The more members we have, the stronger we are at the bargaining table.
  • Our Grievance Committee settled a Level 2 grievance with University Housing this spring.  We won back-pay for the grieving GA and some policy changes in their handbook.  The grievance centered on remedying requirements that regularly led our GA to work over 20 hours/week for his 50% contract.
  • We hosted PhD Movie and added value to the University in addition to our bread-and-butter issues of grievance resolution and collective bargaining.  With over 55 graduate students in attendance, our collaboration with the Graduate School was a resounding success.
  • GAU Organizer, Jessica Soester, joined the team this spring.  Jessica is on a 50% GA contract to conduct community organizing on campus, which includes hosting events, recruiting new members, and building our now 23-member Steward Council.  Welcome Jessica!
  • GAU is set to file an unfair labor practice lawsuit against the University for their arbitrary and unilateral violation of our Collective Bargaining Agreement (Article 5).  Working with our legal team at the Illinois Education Association (IEA), GAU is poised to take action in early February.
  • We will be holding our second General Membership Meeting of the year on February 19th.  As a result of member-feedback, we will be hosting 2 meetings (12noon-1pm, and 7-8pm) in the Missouri/Kaskaskia Rooms of the Student Center.  We look forward to seeing you at a meeting on the 19th!
  • We will be partnering with the IEA unions on campus (the Faculty Association, Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association, and Association of Civil Service Employees) for a bargaining season kick-off rally on March 19th.  Keep on the lookout for an announcement and flyer!

I hope this note finds you all well in the New Year, and off to a good start in spring semester.

If someone you know is interested in becoming a member of GAU, please let us know!  If you are interested in taking your membership to the next level by becoming a Steward or getting involved in our committee work, let us know!  Thank you everyone, very much, for your continued membership and participation in GAU.

Stay in touch!  With love,

Matt Ryg, President

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